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Volunteers expanding, maintaining area trails

For six years, volunteers with the Fredericksburg Area Trail Management & User Group have built and maintained a network of trails along land bordering the Rappahannock River.

Now, if the group can gain local government approval, it will begin a new network of trails on the 860-acre Motts Run Reservoir property.

The group, known as FATMUG, recently got support from Fredericksburg’s Pathway Steering Committee and the council-appointed Recreation Commission for the project, said Bob Antozzi, the city’s director of parks, recreation and public facilities.

Antozzi said he planned to discuss the proposal with one city staff member and, assuming he felt everything was in order, will contact Spotsylvania County officials to review it with them.

The reservoir is owned by the city but located in the county and provides water for both.

FATMUG’s goal there is to develop a system of trails that would enable bikers of all levels to enjoy the outdoor recreation, said co-founder Andy West.

FATMUG is a nonprofit organization created to “protect and expand bicycle access to off-road trails in Fredericksburg.” Its members and volunteers have spent thousands of hours creating a series of trails on land between Fall Hill Avenue and the river, known as the Quarry Trails.

They work to help people understand the best ways to maintain the roughly 15 miles of trails so that all people—be they bike riders, hikers, runners or bird watchers—can safely use them long-term.

West, who moved to the city in 2005 and is a counselor at Walker–Grant Middle School, said a critical role for the group is helping people realize the importance of good stewardship of the trails while enjoying them.

One key, he said, is staying off them in wet weather.

The Quarry Trails, which attract hundreds of visitors each week, are located primarily on city property. But some of them stretch onto private land, which has meant meeting with owners to gain permission, West said.

The city and FATMUG came to a formal agreement allowing the group to create new trails on land behind Sunshine Ballpark, which is located along Wicklow Drive.

This summer, volunteers have been working there to create a 1-mile black diamond trail, a trail with a high level of difficulty for mountain bikers.

BUILT BY VOLUNTEERS

On Thursday morning, West and three other men—all teachers in the region and city residents—were on the black diamond trail area with hand tools.

Initially, they were making “bench cuts” to address the slope of the trail and scraping off the top layers to make it harder.

Their work has also included establishing the path and its slope, building a bridge over a creek, digging trenches and setting rocks in place in some steep areas.

“You can’t just rake some leaves and call it a trail,” West said. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of specialized equipment.”

Dustin Davis is a cyclist and triathlete and teaches in Culpeper. He volunteered for the first time on Thursday, even though he has not yet used any of the trails.

He said he plans to use them with his 10- and 12-year-old sons.

When Cameron Novak and his wife moved to Fredericksburg six years ago, they lived near the river and trails.

That’s how the Spotsylvania middle school teacher met the folks with FATMUG and renewed his interest in the outdoors.

He uses the trails for hiking, jogging, walking and mountain biking and is amazed at the trail system.

“What a great little thing right here in the city,” he said.

Ben Forbes teaches in Stafford County and has evolved into a mountain bike enthusiast.

“I started as a runner, but I was enlightened. Biking is way more fun,” he said.

He’s helping create the new trail as a way of giving back to those who built the current trails that he’s been using. Plus, he enjoys being outdoors and appreciates that the city has made the natural resource available.

“It’s just beautiful out here and we’re lucky the city lets us be out here and make it sustainable,” he said.

LOOKING FORWARD

While the existing Quarry Trails are open to any skill level, newcomers might find them a challenge.

That’s one reason West is so excited about the opportunity at Motts Run.

“I think that Motts would be a great place where we could build beginner, intermediate and expert trails,” he said.

That way, people could learn about mountain biking and develop their skills at their own pace.

The additional trails would also mean the Quarry Trails wouldn’t be as heavily used, which would help in keeping them maintained.

The Quarry Trails plus the other biking, walking and running trails meandering through the city are helping Fredericksburg develop a reputation as an outdoor community, West said.

And, with people coming to enjoy the trails from the Fredericksburg region and beyond, he sees the recreational offerings helping the city’s economy.

Antozzi said the trails group and its members have been an asset to the city.

They are good stewards over the area where they are building and overseeing trails, and deter others from inappropriate activities on the property, he said.

His hope is that the same thing will happen on the Motts Run property.

“This would provide good stewardship and a good recreational use in a controlled way,” Antozzi said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

 

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